For 15 years, some city representatives wondered what was in the capsule tucked away in the Modesto Sister Cities International storehouse. Others probably forgot it was there.
With the passage of time, the secret to opening the time capsule was lost. So residents of Modesto and sister city Kurume, Japan, wielded screwdrivers and hammers Sunday evening to pry open the metal container on the front porch of the McHenry Mansion.
The contents included paintings by Kurume schoolchildren produced in 1992 and letters written by residents of the Japanese city.
The authors wrote about who they were and what their lives might be like in 15 years. Also inside the capsule was a sister city newsletter in Japanese, with pictures of former Modesto Mayor Dick Lang, and of the cruising scene in Modesto and sights in Japan.
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Micheal Maxwell, president of Mo- desto Sister Cities International, said he may try to display the paintings at the Stanislaus County Library. He urged the visitors from Kurume to see if they could match the works of art with people they know.
Sunday evening's reception at the McHenry Mansion and other activities this weekend marked the 15th anniversary of the sister cities agreement between Modesto and Kurume.
Kurume's award-winning Bridgestone Band performed Saturday night at the Downey High School auditorium. The concert also featured a performance from Home Grown of Modesto.
The Japanese band, made up of employees of the Bridgestone Tire Co. in Kurume, plays swing, jazz and tunes from the Big Band era.
Thirty-eight delegates from Kurume made the trip.
Modesto Sister Cities International also welcomed a group from Vernon, British Columbia, Canada, over the weekend. Representatives of the two cities exchanged gifts and enjoyed a dinner, softball game and a public reception Sunday evening at the McHenry Museum.
Maxwell said he has made 15 trips to Japan, taking Mo- desto residents on visits as well as young people involved in exchange programs. Young people from Kurume have made regular visits to Modesto.
"We have touched a lot of lives in Modesto and Kurume with these exchanges," Maxwell said.
Leading the delegation from Kurume was Mayor Morikuni Eto and City Council Chairman Tsutomu Ishibashi. Both said they were pleased Modesto continues to grow.
Many Japanese cities are declining because of the nation's large elder population.
Kurume has the Modesto City Council beat in terms of sheer numbers, however. Its City Council has 42 members compared with Modesto's seven.
With so many council members, Kurume city government meetings are more like a state legislative session here.
Kurume brought its city government baseball team to Mo- desto for a game.
Shohei Kurata, a shoe wholesaler in Japan, said Sunday that despite the busy schedule this week, he set aside time to watch the World Series. Of course, he favored the Boston Red Sox with starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and reliever Hideki Okajima, both of Japan.
October has been a busy month for Modesto Sister Cities International, a volunteer group that maintains relationships with five sister cities. A delegation from Khmelnitskiy, Ukraine, was here this month, too.
Maxwell said the organization felt obliged to accommodate the travel schedules of the three cities. "It's been a whirlwind," he said.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2321.